OPINION | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION | USCPAHA | HERBERT BLOCK’S POSITIONS ON THE SUBJECT | CPJCE | ADMAS KODESH
NEW YORK CITY—A New York Institute of Technology professor of physics, Prof. Bernard Fryshman, who is also one of the world’s major advocates for the preservation of endangered minority cemeteries (he helped the US Congress draft its 2014 resolution on the subject) has teamed up with Boruch Pines, a New York based descendant of many persons buried in the old Vilna Jewish cemetery at Piramónt in the Šnipiškės (Yiddish: Shnípeshok) district of modern Vilnius, capital of Lithuania. Together, they filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on 8 November 2018. Defending History has obtained a copy of the summons and complaint, available as PDF, and below immediately following this report.
The reference in the tweet is to the outstanding 24 June 2016 essay by the eminent Professor Bernard Fryshman in Yated Ne’eman. Professor Fryshman’s critical role in a landmark 2014 United States Congress law protecting vulnerable cemeteries of minorities internationally was explicitly recognized in the applicable Congressional Resolution. Why would a taxpayer supported agency, USPACHA, now be engaged in repeatedly honoring the Satmar-Aaronite sect’s de facto unit for trading away other people’s graves that publicly libels Professor Fryshman and any others who seek to defend the sanctity of human burial grounds around the world?
MONROE, NEW YORK—Ignoring the unanimous views of the world’s leading rabbinic authorities in opposition to the project to plonk a 34 million euro convention center in the heart of Vilna’s old Jewish cemetery, surrounded by thousands of graves on all four sides, “Admas Kodesh,” the American Satmar (Aaronites) affiliate of the London-based CPJCE issued a tweet today condemning as “evil people trying to undermine progress” the 34,000 people, including the chief rabbi of Lithuania, who signed Vilnius resident Ruta Bloshtein’s petition calling on the Lithuanian government to find an alternative venue for the convention center.
KIRYAS JOEL, NY—The “Satmar Headquarters” of the movement’s “Aaronite” branch, partners of the London-based “CPJCE / Admas Kodesh” issued this tweet earlier today, which some observers take to convey the message that the politically connected Hasidic group continues to boast of preventing the “United States Commission for the Preservation [emphasis added] of America’s Heritage Abroad” from expressing even the mildest protest at plans to erect a twenty-five million dollar convention center in the heart of Vilnius’s oldest Jewish cemetery. With the exception of the CPJCE, exposed in Wikileaks as having demanded money for their “supervision” at the same cemetery in 2009 (see Jerusalem Post and JTA reports), major rabbis and rabbinic associations, alongside a variety of Jewish and non-Jewish figures, have expressed unanimous condemnation of the project.
The condemnations include the major groups of Lithuanian (Litvak) rabbis internationally, and also the rival branch of Satmar itself, the “Zalmanite” branch, whose own highest rabbinic court last summer added its voice to the Lithuanian rabbis worldwide. Vilnius has numerous venues appropriate for the new convention center. Some observers remain baffled at the insistence on the old cemetery site, where thousands of graves lie intact, and where revelers would clap, cheer, and use bars and toilets surrounded by a half millennium’s Jewish graves, including major Jewish scholars of the city, historically Vilna, once known as the Jerusalem of Lithuania.
LONDON—The “Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe” (CPJCE), affiliated with “Admas Kodesh” and the “Aaronite” splinter group of Satmar hasidism, comprising the rabbis received by the prime minister of Lithuania in Vilnius last April, issued an extraordinary press release today, full of praise for the prime minister (which he no doubt deserves), but without even mentioning the issue at hand: the imminent construction of a twenty-five million dollar convention center in the heart of the cemetery. People attending conventions, concerts, and congresses naturally cheer, clap, drink in bars and use toilets. Here they will do so surrounded by thousands of Jewish graves from over a half millennium of Jewish life in Vilna, once known as the Jerusalem of Lithuania.
BROOKLYN, N.Y.—Followers of the Jewish cemetery saga in Vilnius were shocked at the most recent “game playing” by a haredi splinter group allied with Admas Kodesh (“Holy Earth”) and the CPJCE (the London based “Committee for the Protection of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe”) that was last April entertained by the prime minister of Lithuania and gave its blessing for a $25,000,000 convention center in the heart of the old Piramónt (Šnipiškes) Jewish cemetery that goes back to the fifteenth century, if not earlier. The group has been implicated by Wikileaks’ release of a 2009 U.S. ambassador’s cable explaining that their quiet permissions for digging and “beautification” comes with big price tags.